Jazz, film, and improvised culture.
UCLA Celebration of Iranian Cinema ’16: Wednesday, May 9
love wrestling in Iran, but nothing is more competitive than the contest
launched by a would be philanthropist to determine who has the most wretched
existence. To the “lucky winner” goes the potentially soul-saving prize of thirty
million tomans (roughly ten grand). However, the emotionally damaged benefactor
is caught flat-footed by the overwhelming volume of applicants and the extreme
depths of their despair. At least misery will have its company in Vahid
Jalilvand’s Wednesday, May 9 (trailer here), which screens
during the 2016 UCLA Celebration of Iranian Cinema.
Jalal put his ad in the paper announcing the open call for prospective
recipients, he never expected the kind of bedlam that resulted. Upset by the
commotion and clearly uneasy with the potential civic-religious implications of
his charity, the Tehran coppers briefly haul Jalal off for some quality time at
the station. None of that matters to Leila. She was once engaged to the older
Jalal (obviously through an arrangement), but eventually married her now
enfeebled husband, who desperately needs an operation she cannot pay for.
second contestant is Setareh, an orphaned young woman who lives with her snobby
aunt and abusive cousin Esmaeel. She secretly married Morteza, the hard working
building superintendent her aunt rebuffed on several occasions, but her
deception has been discovered. Ironically, when Esmaeel and a friend jump
Morteza on the streets, the cousin is the one who gets hurt, resulting in
prison time and a blood money judgement against Morteza.
ever said life was fair in Iran. Institutionalized misogyny does not help much
either. As seen in prior films, the Iranian legal system again seems perversely
engineered to render the most unjust verdicts, which in some respects it was. Unlike
Farhadi’s A Separation, misery cuts
across the strata of social class. Everyone is miserable, but some are more
miserable than others, which begs the question that seems to be quietly hinted
at within the margins of the film: if Iran is so faithful, why has it been so
Leila and Setareh, established screen star Niki Karimi and debuting co-star
Sahar Ahmadpour are a devastating tag-team combo, conveying a wide array of
pain and humiliation. To some extent, they can clearly relate to everything
that befalls their characters, which is terribly depressing to contemplate (but
yields dividends on-screen). Likewise, Amir Aghaei is acutely sad and soulful
as Jalal. With time, we come to understand why he does what he does, even
though he invariably makes matters worse.
Nobody does blisteringly honest and revealing
domestic dramas like auteurist Iranian filmmakers. Although Jalilvand is a
television director making his feature debut, he shows a sensitive (yet
intermittently sadistic) touch. Highly recommended for patrons of Iranian
cinema, Wednesday, May 9 screens this
coming Monday (5/16) at the Billy Wilder Theater, as part of UCLA’s annual
Iranian film showcase.
Labels: Iranian Cinema, UCLA Celebration of Iranian Cinema '16